ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers celebrate with the trophy after their 43-24 win over the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Perhaps no team is poised to close stronger than Auburn.
National Signing day is coming up on February 1st and no team is better poised to close strong than the Auburn Tigers. The Tigers have had a tumultuous season, both on and off the field. And that tumult extended to the recruiting trail.
Auburn started off extremely strong on the recruiting trail, following its national title. Then came the five-loss football season without Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, the relegation back to the status of Alabama's little brother as the Tide rolled to its 14th title, and the loss of both coordinators to lateral moves.
After Auburn lost its offensive and defensive coordinators, it was up to Gene Chzik to keep things together. Chizik took a long time to find an offensive coordinator, but made a dynamite hire in Brian Van Gorder, formerly of Georgia and the Atlanta Falcons. The Tigers have positioned themselves to turn things around and, as much as anyone can, keep pace with Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
For more on Auburn Tiger recruiting, see the Auburn Tiger Recruiting story stream.
What players could make this a great National Signing Day for Auburn? The Tigers are in contention for an astounding nine of the remaining top-25 uncommitted recruits:
Arik Armstead. 6'8", 290 pounds of defensive end? Or so he thinks. Armstead insists on playing defensive end. He's a much better prospect as an offensive tackle, and at that position, he'd be the top recruit in the state of California. His finalists all tell him what he wants to hear (defensive end). Armstead can probably succeed at either, but he is talented enough to still be a top draft choice at offensive tackle provided he switches in time to play two seasons at the position. Armstead was committed to USC, but decommitted after a disagreement between his brother Armond Armstead and USC's doctors about an injury. Armstead wants to play with his brother, who will transfer. And while once thought to be a Cal lock, this is now a heated battle between the Golden Bears, Oregon Ducks, Auburn Tigers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Armstead is a consensus five-star as an offensive tackle or "athlete" recruit, and a four-star as a defensive end. Note: Armstead is actually deciding Sunday at 6 p.m. EST. If he chooses the Tigers, the party on the plains will kick off a little early.
Eddie Goldman. 6'4", 310 pounds, defensive tackle. Score another top recruit for the Beltway, as this Washington DC prospect has been known in recruiting circles since his sophomore year. Goldman is extremely powerful, with decent quickness for his size. Few defensive tackles can make an impact as a freshman, but Goldman is one of the few. There are some questions about his effort, but many elite players take plays off in high school. Depending on who you ask, Goldman is headed to either Auburn or to the Florida St. Seminoles, with Alabama still having a chance. The national champions in this decade have, for the most part, had dominating defensive lines. It all starts up front. Goldman is a consensus five-star recruit.
Stefon Diggs. Speed, speed and more speed. The 6'1", 190-pound receiver out of Maryland is seriously fast. And he's not small, like many track guys. Diggs seems to have narrowed his choices to Auburn and the Florida Gators, having raved about both visits. Diggs is another consensus five-star, and his recruitment has been wild. Maryland is a darkhorse here. Note: Diggs is actually signing on February 10, because he waited to take his visits. Auburn will give him all the time he needs.
Ronald Darby is yet another undecided kid from the mid-Atlantic. The 5'11", 175-pound Maryland cornerback might be the fastest player in this class. Darby possesses elite track speed and shows some solid cover skills. He was at one time committed to Notre Dame, but backed out of that pledge. He lists a top four of Florida State, the Clemson Tigers, Auburn and Notre Dame, in no specific order. However, most believe Notre Dame is not a player in this race, and that the Seminoles are the favorite to land Darby due to the elite track program in Tallahassee and Darby's friendship with FSU commitment and fellow sprinter, Marvin Bracy. Like all the recruits on this list so far, Darby is a consensus five-star prospect.
Avery Young is a promising developmental offensive line prospect out of Florida. The 6'6", 280-pound Young has a narrow frame, but that hasn't stopped Florida, Auburn, Georgia, Alabama and Miami from pursuing him. The four-star will make his choice on National Signing Day, and this one is too close to call.
Leonard Williams. Talk about potential. This 6'5", 260-pound defensive end out of Daytona is just scratching the surface. Williams is a tough player who could grow into one of those jumbo defensive ends in a 4-3 defense that never lets the tight end off the LOS and into his route, or who simply walks the opposing offensive tackle back into the quarterback, all while consistently shutting down the run. Williams is a consensus four-star and is still underrated in my mind. Auburn, Florida, USC and Florida State are the favorites here, though numbers play a large role. Florida State currently has three five-star defensive ends committed, and taking a fourth would be tricky. Given that, Auburn is the trendy pick.
Kwon Alexander is a talented linebacker out of Alabama. Alexander recently tore his ACL, but that hasn't stopped Alabama, Auburn and the LSU Tigers from pursuing him. Due to scholarship limits, Alabama cannot sign everyone, and space may be an issue there. The race is too close to call for this consensus four-star player.
Ricardo Louis is a very talented athlete out of Miami. He committed to Auburn, decommitted and committed to Florida State, and has since decommitted again. The four-star will decide between the two schools on signing day and plans to play receiver, though many believe the 6'2", 210-pound Louis could also be a quality defensive back. Many consider Auburn a lock here after Louis' brief flirtation with the 'Noles.
Auburn currently has fifteen commitments, including eight four-star recruits. But if the Tigers close with the majority of the above players, not only would it would give Auburn an amazing class, but it could go a long way to slowing Alabama's momentum.